The Managing Committee of Shree Jagannath Temple, Puri, on Monday recommended construction of chariots used in the annual rath yatra, but uncertainty continued to prevail over holding the mega festival scheduled for June 24.
As per tradition, construction of three majestic chariots for deities — Lord Jagannath, Lord Balabhadra and Devi Subhadra — begins from the auspicious day of Akshaya Tritiya. Since the nation was under coronavirus ( COVID-19 ) lockdown, the chariot construction was not allowed. After zone-wise selected activities were allowed in the lockdown-3 , the committee members discussed the issue of chariot construction at a meeting held through video-conferencing on Monday. Servitors had been insisting on holding the festival.
“Chariot construction is ought to be taken up from Akshaya Tritiya which fell on April 26 this year. Due to lockdown, we could not commence the programme. We are already late by more than a week now. We do not want to delay it further. However, the State government is the final authority to take a call on the issue,” said Dibyasingh Deb, Puri’s titular king and Chairman of the Managing Committee.
“Construction of chariot does not violate lockdown guidelines. Making chariot and holding the festival are two different things. Since Puri falls in green zone, construction of chariots can be taken up. Holding the rath yatra would depend on the unfolding pandemic situation during June,” said Mr. Deb.
“Chariots are dismantled every year after the rath yatra and the wood is used as fuel wood in the grand kitchen of the temple. If we are unable to hold the rath yatra, the wood will be used in kitchen,” he said.
Every year, a total of 865 logs, including 42 big logs, are required for construction of chariots for the three deities. More than 250 carpenters and skilled artisans are engaged in the chariot making. They take at least two months to complete three giant chariots. Truckloads of logs have already arrived in Puri.
Taking into account social distancing norms, the managing committee has decided to construct chariots in a bigger area.